The peak of passion

The peak of passion

Travel tales

The peak of passion

I’ve climbed almost every mountain that I’ve dreamt of and every one of those efforts have left me with loads of memories.

Mountaineering is indeed a humbling experience. I have just returned from a six-day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I have had so many friends sharing their experiences of having been atop the Kilimanjaro that I too began nursing a dream to climb it. I recently led a group of 13 people from Bengaluru and the experience, to say the least, was truly mesmerising.

We collaborated with one of the most popular tour guides of Kilimanjaro and I must say that we only had to pay and everything else was taken care of. There were no hitches or complaints as far as the food, tour or other arrangements were concerned.

Everybody who had signed up for the tour had to be mentally and physically prepared to trek 19,000ft to get atop Kilimanjaro. I knew it would be a long and hard climb. There were a lot of first-timers in the group and they took the instructions and tips very sportingly and worked towards achieving the goal.

We realised that it was just as important to have fun and experience another world, just as much as it was to ensure that we return safe and healthy. With this as the underlying belief, we began our intensive preparation for the Kilimanjaro climb.

We began working towards the adventure six months prior to our scheduled departure. Our preparations included a lot of strength training, concentration on breathing techniques and yoga. In an effort to give the first-timers a mountaineering experience, we decided to go on a short trek to Nandi Hills which was especially beautiful because we could almost touch the clouds.

After an extensive preparation, we were finally ready to go on our the trek. After we reached the Kilimanjaro International Airport, we drove to Keys Hotel in Moshi where we halted for the night. The next morning, we began our journey through the Machame Route  which did not have much vegetation.

We were 14 people in the group with a support staff of porters, travel guides and cooks. There were two things that we were all mentally prepared for — we had to be self-sufficient in terms of carrying enough water to drink, at least four litres a day, and some dry fruits and chocolates to make sure we didn’t run out of steam. We had an excellent team of chefs who were well-versed and adept at every type of cuisine. The table before every meal would be laid out neatly in the dining tent area. Every morning, we would be woken up with a bowl of hot water to wash our face and hands and then we could choose to have tea, coffee or hot chocolate to begin the day. The breakfast compulsorily included a bowl of porridge and assorted fruits while the lunch would be light and for dinner, we always had rice and soup.

There were plenty of fruits and vegetables included in our diet. This ensured that we were high energy. I have climbed the mountains in Nepal 15 times and submitted the Everest Base Camp 11 times. Unlike my other expeditions, I found Kilimanjaro to be a different experience. I am always the sweeper whenever I lead a team of mountaineers. By sweeper, I mean the last person in the line whose duty is to ensure that those with a slow pace reach safe.

The most challenging part of the expedition was to negotiate the rocky, narrow pathways and climbing the Barranco Wall was indeed tough. It is a vertical wall where we had to use the protruding rocks as our foot and hand holders to surge forward. After climbing for four days, we got atop the Kilimanjaro on the fifth day.

After the expedition, we stayed at Arusha Inn. The next day, we drove 90 kms to Tarangire National Park, where we saw a few rare birds and animals. Later, we drove to Eileen’s Trees Inn, located in the town of Karatu, where we stayed for three nights.

We also visited the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park and Lake Manyara in Manyara Region in Tanzania where we spotted pink flamingos.

At 63, I am the oldest Indian woman to have successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. At the end of the journey, I felt that it was a hort but a very eventful climb.

Vasumathi can be reached on 99456021889945602188.

(As told to Nina C George)